Blood test may help diagnose concussion


A simple blood test appeared to detect signs of concussion up a week after patients suffered a head injury, researchers report.

Delayed symptoms

The test might provide a new way to diagnose concussions, especially in patients without immediate symptoms, the researchers said.

However, the research is preliminary and the test would not be ready for widespread use for several years, experts said.

"Symptoms of a concussion, or a mild to moderate traumatic brain injury, can be subtle and are often delayed, in many cases by several days," said study lead author Dr Linda Papa, an emergency medicine physician and researcher at Orlando Health.

Read: Sports concussions: myths and facts

"This [blood test] could provide doctors with an important tool for simply and accurately diagnosing those patients, particularly children, and making sure they are treated properly," she added in a news release from the Florida health care provider.

The test looks for a biomarker called glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), which is released into the bloodstream when the brain is injured. In nearly 600 patients age 18 and older, the blood test detected mild to moderate concussion with up to 97 percent accuracy, the researchers said.

May reduce use of CT scans

"Not only were they present in the bloodstream, we were able to detect measurable levels of GFAP up to a week after the injury," said Papa, a U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded researcher.

Read: Athletes should give concussion time to heal

The test could also help to identify patients who need neurosurgery and could significantly reduce the use of CT scans to diagnose concussions, according to the study published online in the journal JAMA Neurology. Though precise, CT scans are costly and expose patients to radiation.

An estimated 250,000 U.S. children are treated in hospitals each year for concussions from playing sports – nearly 700 a day. Almost all concussions sustained by kids are diagnosed only by symptoms, such as vomiting, loss of balance, blurred vision or headaches. As a result, it can be difficult for doctors to determine the severity of the injury, Papa said.

"If patients are not diagnosed properly and treated appropriately, it could lead to long-term problems," she said, such as headaches, dizziness, memory loss and depression.

"We have so many diagnostic blood tests for different parts of the body, like the heart, liver and kidneys, but there's never been a reliable blood test to identify trauma in the brain. We think this test could change that," Papa said. 

Read more: 

Brain disease linked to repetitive brain injuries in sports 

Apps can help professionals spot a concussion 

Did repeat concussions in rugby cause Joost's MND?

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Eskom has considered continuous load shedding at Stage 2, instead of introducing it when the power system faces a crunch. What are your thoughts?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'm all for it - we're going to have power cuts regardless, so we might as well have some stability to better plan our lives
45% - 4729 votes
No thanks! I prefer having periods of no load shedding and we cannot normalise this crisis
55% - 5796 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.